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Monday, August 22, 2011

Chaffetz won't challenge Orrin Hatch

In a big boost to Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, two-term congressman and “tea party” favorite Jason Chaffetz backed away Monday from a threatened intraparty challenge of the venerable GOP lawmaker.

Chaffetz, 44, announced his surprise decision at an afternoon news conference in Salt Lake City, saying a run for Senate would result in “a multimillion-dollar bloodbath.”

"I don’t think that’s necessarily in my best interests,” Chaffetz said. “I don’t think it’s in the best interest of our party, the nation or our state."

Up until Monday, Chaffetz seemed prepared to take on Hatch, who was first elected in 1976 and has served longer than any senator in Utah history. He is bidding next year for a seventh term.

The two Republicans exchanged repeated barbs over the last few months, as Chaffetz stepped up his travels around the state, winning applause for his attacks on the 77-year-old senator. Chaffetz also received encouragement from conservative groups outside Utah, including the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks; both played an important role in last year’s ouster of GOP Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah.

A conservative by just about any measure, Bennett ran afoul of many tea party acolytes and grass-roots Republicans by supporting the 2008 Wall Street bailout -- which he deemed necessary to save the country from economic collapse -- and by working on bipartisan healthcare legislation with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. Bennett was replaced by Republican Mike Lee, who ran under the tea party banner.

Hatch has a similar history of working across the aisle, most famously with the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. But unlike Bennett, who was slow responding to the challenge he faced, Hatch has been actively positioning himself for reelection.  (Continues here)

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